Monday, December 13, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas

I enjoy creating texture in my artwork. Much of my educational publishing work is done with this technique.  I’ve also created a few picture books, using a textured surface to create the artwork. Though much of my art is more realistically painted, I find a certain amount of playfulness and experimentation when working with texture in a more graphic approach to the illustration.

This snowman is a small illustration in a holiday series that I created a few years ago.  I wanted to incorporate a folk art influence and an overall texture in the painting.  I usually start with a piece of three-ply Bristol and apply a thick coat of gesso, brushing in various directions. When the gesso is completely dry, layers of thin acrylic color are applied.  Here, I start with a light brown wash, spatter the entire area with dark brown paint (using a toothbrush) then outline the drawing with black paint.

Now I paint semi-transparent washes of color (I like to see the spattering and under painting through the color washes) and dry-brush some shaded areas of the snowman with a light, gray blue. 

With opaque white, I start to create some form to the snowman, being careful not to cover too much of my line work.  I like to be able to see most of the paint layers, including spatters and under painting in the final image. 

After the color is applied and the rendering is complete on the snowman, I continue to add decoration. Snowflakes, rosy snowman cheeks and some detail is added to other areas of the painting.  I also start the placement of some hand-lettering at the top and bottom of the illustration.

Here is the finished illustration. After completing the image and lettering, I use an exacto blade to sweep across the surface of the illustration, scraping off some of the higher brush stroke ridges. It just adds a bit more interesting texture. I did this same thing a few years ago on the art for a book titled, Gorgonzola, A Very STINKYsaurus (Katherine Tegen Books- HarperCollins). This texture technique was also used on other books I’ve illustrated: Fun Dog, Sun Dog and Cool Dog, School Dog (Marshall Cavendish).

It’s exciting to wash, spatter, dry-brush, scrape and render, all on a single image. This technique is a nice break from my time consuming, tightly rendered painting. So grab your gesso, toothbrush and exacto blade... and have some fun!
Have a wonderful holiday and Merry Christmas!